“We are not mad. We are human.We want to love, and someone must forgive us for the paths we take to love, for the paths are many and dark, and we are ardent and cruel in our journey.” ~ Leonard Cohen
There’s a scene in “Blazing Saddles” where the sheriff holds a gun to his own head and takes himself hostage so that the townspeople do not kill him.
Over the course of my ten years of practicing psychotherapy, I have found that this scene is an apt analogy for what I believe occurs in many marriages: individuals either consciously or subconsciously WITHHOLD affection in order to emotionally starve their partners into capitulating to meet their supposed “needs” or desires — their “demands.”
Hence, for me, the best sex therapist for couples in general and married couples in particular — especially in Los Angeles where many relationships are transactional — is former FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss. In particular, I turn all of my couples onto his Masterclass and teach them what Mister Voss calls “tactical empathy” or what psychotherapists refer to as reflective or active listening:
“So if I hear you correctly… you feel that…”
Mister Voss objects to the “I hear” part of reflective listening but I believe it is essential in VALIDATING your partner’s emotional experience. Throughout our daily lives when our listeners are multitasking and not matching our facial affects, they are unintentionally invalidating our emotional experiences.
As I state in my book “How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re An Adult,” “Mirror neurons do not fire via text message.”
In the late 1960s, Dr. Albert Meharabian of UCLA found that 93% of communication is non-verbal:
7% happens in spoken words
38% happens through voice tone
55% happens via general body language
Which is why I teach couples the NLP techniques of mirroring and matching so that they can sync up, attune, and resonate with each other — and actively VALIDATE their partner’s emotional experience, whatever that may be. Authentic emotions needed matched and mirrored back authentically for people to trust and securely attach or re-attach to people. This is why I teach classes with titles such as “Authenticity and Awakening for Lovable Idiots“: because irrespective of loving intentions, some of us are ardent and cruel when we subconsciously believe that our partners are withholding affection from us.
“Right and wrong are on the other side of the front door: you can pick them up on the way out,” I tell couples. “I’m not a judge and you are not attorneys trying a case. Both of you are entitled to whatever emotional experiences you are having and I’m going to teach you how to VALIDATE each other’s feelings — even if you cannot understand them or blatantly disagree with them.”
So when I find that either person is or both people are withholding emotional and physical affection, I treat the situation as a hostage negotiation and coach both parties to actively hear each other and reflect back what they hear as accurately as possible both verbally and non-verbally.
As Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” And the ways we communicate through DM, IM, email and texting have profound ramifications and are rife with misinterpretation. In his Masterclass Mister Voss states that most emails are read negatively. I concur and believe that written sarcasm and irony often land poorly while the intention was friendly or even loving. We have become pawns of technology and I have witnessed it destroy hundreds of loving relationships.
So if you are in a couple and you are not receiving the affection that you and your body crave from your partner, I would refer you to the person who I consider to be the Best Sex Therapist working today: FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss. Allow him to teach you tactical empathy and I believe that making your partner feel heard and validating their emotions will inspire them to release the affection that he or she has been holding hostage from you.